TAISM Hosts the 12th Annual Festival of Choirs
The 12th annual Festival of Choirs was hosted by The American International School of Muscat (TAISM) on February 27-28. Six weeks leading up to the Festival, teachers and students began learning the music in their home schools, and preparing themselves for the academic and social process in Muscat. This year, 180 high school students representing 48 nationalities from 20 international schools, joined their voices in the two-day schedule. The crowning event of the Festival was the Grand Finale Concert, included the world premiere of Kooloona Wahed which translates to “We Are All One”. Commissioned by TAISM Festival of Choirs, the song was written by Kyle Pederson, an American composer. It included parts for SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) chorus and piano. Both English and Arabic text were woven into the score, - and the song was first shared with the world at TAISM’s Bosch Center for the Performing Arts for over 500 honored guests, students, parents, teachers, staff, and friends of the Festival as well as being streamed online via TAISM’s livestream.
Dr. Christopher Aspaas returned for the third time to the Festival as the special Guest Conductor. His contagious energy and positive spirit led the students through the two days of rehearsals. Dr. Aspaas presently works as Associate Professor of Choral/Vocal Music at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, USA. At St. Olaf, he conducts the Viking Chorus, a 90-voice ensemble of first-year student men, and also leads the Saint Olaf Chapel Choir, a 100-voice ensemble specializing in the performance of oratorio and larger multi-movement works. He is in high demand as a guest clinician throughout the choral world. Dr. Aspaas is also a composer and arranger, and the chorus had the opportunity to learn and perform two of his original pieces.
During the weekend together, participants were engaged in approximately 15 hours of rehearsals. In addition to polishing what they had practiced back at their own schools, singers learned about endurance, voice care, and choral excellence. Another special component of this year’s event was a live interview with composer Ethan Sperry, who wrote the Indian Raga, Dwijavanthi, that the students performed. TAISM families hosted the visiting students in their homes, and organizers designed special ways for the students to connect with one another through inclusion activities, games, challenges, and social events.
Held annually since 2004, this choral music festival has been an exceptional educational experience for students desiring an opportunity to sing in a traditional American choral setting where men and women sing in four harmonic voice parts – SATB. Additionally, the festival has created opportunities for international schools from around the globe to collaborate in the development of their choral music programs. Groups from around the globe including Southwest Asia, Africa, and Europe came to participate. Promoting professional development for choral music educators, the participating school teachers had the opportunity to collaborate, observe rehearsal methods, and participate in workshops. While Festival of Choirs emphasizes quality music-making, it is the friendships and connections of students and teachers around the world which becomes a highlight for all involved.
TAISM’s Festival of Choirs has become an outstanding example of how international schools can unite their abilities to develop a better understanding of the human spirit through the power of music.
Melanie Brink, TAISM Festival of Choirs Artistic & Event Director
Click here to watch the Finale Concert